During the early 1930s in Chicago, the transcontinental train, Flying Pussyfoot, is starting its legendary journey that will leave a trail of blood all over the country. At the same time in New York, the ambitious scientist Szilard and his unwilling aide Ennis are looking for missing bottles of the immortality elixir. In addition, a war between the mafia groups is getting worse. On board the Advena Avis, in 1711, alchemists are about to learn the price of immortality.
– From MAL
Baccano is one of those anime that the first time you try and watch it, you would be easily forgiven for dropping mid-episode 1 and walking away. The opening episode is incredibly dry and confusing as it has two characters discussing a range of apparently unrelated events seemingly trying to find a connection between them or a main character for the story. The dialogue is slow, you have no context for anything they are discussing, and all in all it is probably one of the worst opening episodes I have endured for an otherwise very competent anime.
What makes it worse, is that after having watched the anime through, the opening actually makes perfect sense and on the second and third watch of the series you begin to think the first episode is actually rather good, and that is probably a mistake. I remember it took me nearly four goes before I watched this beyond episode 1. It then became something I couldn’t stop watching and ended up falling in love with, but that first episode is tough to get through. Still, endure it and you will find a story that ends up hitting all the right notes even if it takes its time to get there.
Part of what makes the first watch through of this series challenging is the sheer number of characters and that you are jumping through time and locations as three stories are told almost simultaneously but the links between them aren’t all that clear until you are fair way through the narrative. Adding to the confusion of the main storylines are characters like Isaac and Miria (who are amazing) that simply float through every other characters’ story at some point though they don’t actually have all that much to do with the main stories that are going on. Their presence is completely necessary to everything that happens, and to draw certain ideas and characters together, as well as to move several key plot points along, and yet they are almost oblivious to the story the audience is trying to follow as they flit about in their own little world. It makes them amazing but confusing.
With so many characters it would be easy to write off a lot of them as one-note and given the majority of the story is set in a world of gangsters and we see the usual tropes getting pulled out and marched onto screen, that could be a fair complaint. However, there’s a lot going on in this story and even seemingly simple characters sometimes offer a little bit more than meets the eye when you stick with the show. Then there are the pivotal characters within the plot that have been given a lot more depth. While they don’t get a lot of screen time individually, they leave a lasting impression.
The show does a number of things to help the audience out with remembering who is who and what their role is. The most obvious is the opening, which outside of being awesome to listen to and entertaining, introduces each character in their element and also draws a lot of the relationships for the audience. Watching the opening can really help early on in the series if you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of faces and names being thrown around. However, outside of that, the majority of the characters stay within their plot. There are connections to the other stories being told, but with the exception of Isaac and Miria, very few of the other characters cross between storylines until the very end when things kind of come together. This means that you can usually remember when and where you are based on which group of characters you are currently following. Also, that boring first episode, actually does give you a lot of the set up if you manage to pay attention to it.
One thing I really liked about the story was despite the fact that Ladd Russo is most definitely crazy and violent, the story doesn’t try to paint those opposed to him or anyone as heroic. Self-interest reigns supreme for almost all of these characters and their actions reflect that. While sometimes characters are cast in a more heroic light, the anime itself largely refrains from pushing anyone into that hero or good guy role. That doesn’t mean that their aren’t likeable characters in the story. There are many characters you may end up really loving. However, even Isaac and Miria are thieves and everyone else has plenty of blood on their hands.
Ultimately, Baccano is one of those stories that it is best to try yourself and make your own mind up about so I’m avoiding going into any specific details about the plot. It is violent and quite gory in places so it probably isn’t for those who dislike blood and violence. However, that upbeat opening song isn’t just for show. Despite some dark subject matter, this show is a bundle of fun to watch and one that sticks with you after viewing. I definitely recommend a second viewing of it though because everything is more fun in this show the second time when you know where it is going and aren’t struggling as much with character identification.
I’d love to know your thoughts on Baccano if you’ve seen it.
Thanks for reading.
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31 thoughts on “Baccano Series Review: Ambition, Immortality, Murder and Mayhem”
I’ve heard of this show a couple times and it’s been on and off my watch list. Do you think someone who likes 91 Days would like this show? It sounds like something I’d enjoy
This is more high energy and silly than 91 Days so it depends whether you liked 91 Days for the era it was set in or for its tone. Baccano also has some fairly bloody moments so if violence isn’t your thing possibly pass.
Baccano remains one of my all time favourites but I have to agree; the first episode is no walk in the park. It’s a really hard watch but I was left intrigued by the end of it lol. It only makes sense when the story and all the action starts coming together. It’s a very clever move in terms of storytelling since it’s like a prologue that leaves you confused yet intrigued but here, because it’s in the visual medium, it doesn’t seem to work as well. Aside from that, the rest of the anime is truly an amazing watch! I kind of want to go back and rewatch it now haha :’)
I’m pretty sure Baccano was the first anime I watched straight through and finished. To this day it’s still one of my favorites. The characters are great and the show has an awesome sense of humor. Another thing I liked about it was just how off-the-wall it was. There was the familiarity of the setting and characters which I thought was interesting on its own, but along with that there was the brilliant comic relief, Rail Tracer, and alchemy. But even with all that it managed to remain grounded.
It’s actually kind of funny that I saw your post today. I have some time off from school, so I’ve been trying to write a bit more and one of the things I was debating which anime series to write about first. You have inspired me. Baccano! it is. Great post.
Hope you enjoy watching it again and thanks for the comment.
I enjoyed the series but couldn’t help but compare it to Durarara!!
Maybe one of these days I’ll rewatch Baccano since I do believe I was a bit lost when I first watched it.
Now I have to admit that Durarara is one of those anime I know I should have finished and still haven’t. I’ve watch the first two episodes and then never actually gotten back to it.
It was on my list of anime to complete in 2017 but that didn’t happen. I probably should make it a priority after I finally finish Hunter x Hunter.
Oh, I understand. There’s always a few older shows out there…
I also need to finish Hunter x Hunter. I remember you were enjoying it in 2017.
Yes, I’ve made some progress over the break but I’m still only in the 70’s. So many episodes.
Weird…I watched Durarara!! but couldn’t help but compare it to Baccano! We all have our preferences ☺
I found myself in a similar situation when starting, where I couldn’t get past the first episode no matter how hard I tried. Looking back on it all now, Baccano is SO MUCH better (and more fun) with a second watch, and I do encourage you to do so if you ever get the time! I like how you mentioned that no characters are specifically painted as good or bad; the cast just acts on who they are as individuals, for as you said, they’ve all got plenty of blood on their hands. And yes, even Isaac and Miria are thieves. The time period really works to enhance the setting and the overall vibe, so that’s a huge plus for watching, too. Glad you reviewed this oldie!
Glad you enjoyed the review.
I’m not normally one for this time period as I find the characters usually end up a bit cliche but Baccano managed a fairly fresh take on it and I really enjoyed how the show used its setting.
This is one of my all time favourite animes, but I might be the only one who was able to get through episode one with no problem. Baccano is one of the few shows that handles multiple storylines and characters in a perfect way. It’s fantastic!
It really does work multiple storylines well and all of the stories are interesting. Sometimes you get one thread that just isn’t as compelling as the others and spend time just waiting to get back to another story but Baccano makes you want to watch everything.
I had the same problem with it when I began, that first episode was difficult to get through. But once I did, I freaking loved the show! I kind of wanna go back and re-watch it now. Excellent review, my friend.
Glad you enjoyed the review. I really enjoy rewatching Baccano. Even though I’ve seen it a number of times I think I notice something new every time I watch it that I missed before.
I was one of those people who dropped it for a long time after EP.1 but ended up loving the series quite strongly. I don’t remember everything about EP.1, except for the fact that I was really annoyed by this girl called Carol and the editor (?).
At least I wasn’t the only one who bailed at episode 1 and then gave it another go. Yes, Carol is so annoying in that first episode.
Isaac and Miria won the annual “best couple” award that year. They have since made cameo appearances in other anime, including ones which are scifi and happen centuries later.
It is great to see that they have continued to have fun after the events of the story.
They appear in Durarara! and join the Dollars gang.
You are so right about Baccano’s first episode. It makes so much more sense after everything has been watched, but it’s such a weird choice.
If a first episode is supposed to make you interested and draw you into the series, this one really just doesn’t do it. Nor does it really set the tone for the rest of the show. Yet, I can’t say it is useless because after you have a context for the conversation it actually works. Such a weird way to start a show.
It’s a good thing I usually don’t drop shows anyway. And that I saw Macross Delta that introduced literally about 25 characters in the space of 5 minutes. So in other words, I don’t get scared easily lol.
Unfortunately, or maybe I should say surprisingly this one is not available for me here 😢😢 Real shame as I know you really like this series, and I have to admit that everything you told about it, is something that really appeals to me 😊 I still highly enjoyed reading your post though. I hope this Year’s Animecon will have the series, in order for me to buy it on dvd 😊
I starting to feel like I shouldn’t complain about Australia’s access to anime. Your list of anime to look out for must be huge at this point.
Haha, you really don’t want to know how long that list is (combined with my other lists for movies, tv series and books, I could probably build a building of about a 100 floors high lol 😂😂